A Mini Food Tour of Vietnam

Vietnamese food is blowing all the way up. It first came onto my “must try” radar a few years ago, but when I began scheduling Vietnam into my trip, the cuisine was an enormous contributing factor to my excitement.

In Ho Chi Minh City I created a long list of dishes I wanted to try, which expanded as I found new local dishes. Unless I converted the entire trip into a dedicated food tour, it would have been impossible to try everything. But with Alessio’s help, I crossed off a lot of things!

Bun Thit Nuong

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Bun Thit Nuong was my first meal in Vietnam. We ate in a snazzy cafe called Mc2 where the food was reasonably priced. Bun thit nuong is amazing. A leafy salad speckled with peanuts, and slices of pork sit on a bed of vermicelli noodles and crisp beansprouts. A great dish, and definite favourite.

Banh Mi

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So I knew I wouldn’t like banh mi – or banh my as it is spelt in North Vietnam. I’m not a huge sandwich eater, and when I do go for sandwiches I like very very simple ones. Banh mi has too much going on for my preferences, but Alessio tried it. He didn’t like it, in fact. There was a particular flavour he couldn’t get on with, and we both attributed it to the pate. Since everyone loves banh mi, I suggested he try another later.

He tried it again in Hanoi, where the doner kebab banh my are ubiquitous. He loves a doner kebab, so this was sure to be a winner, right? Almost. He liked it more than the last, but he still complained about a certain flavour.

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Later, when I was eating the claypot pork below, Alessio complained that it wasn’t very nice and had the flavour of the banh mi. I had been happily scooping out the herbs but gave him a taster of the dish with a lot of herbs. I realised the flavour he hated was one I reviled equally. Coriander.

I think he may have enjoyed another without the coriander (cilantro), but by this point his patience for giving banh mi the banhifit of the doubt had worn out.

Shrimp com tam

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“But it’s just normal rice!” Alessio wailed, when I rejoiced in finally finding a stall that sold the dish.

“No!” I snapped. “Can’t you see the grains are smaller!”

Finding com tam rice was a big deal for me, because the idea of “broken rice” sounded so cool. Com tam is rice made from normal grains that have broken. It’s popular and cheaper for locals to buy and eat. The texture was similar to cous cous, and I really enjoyed it. The only issue was that the stall I chose only had a small selection of accompanying meats, and since I could only safely identify the shrimps as not being beef, that’s what I ate. The shrimps were too tiny to deshell, so it did feel a bit like eating insects! I would love to try the dish again but with a different meat.

Pho Ga

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Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese dish, so of course it made its way onto the list. The most well known type and widely available contains beef, which I don’t eat, but we found some pho ga which I tried. 

Although I expected not to like noodle soups a lot, this was pretty nice!

Caramel clay pot pork

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The favourite dish. 

Thit kho to dau was listed on my food bucket list as “Caramel pork soup in claypot” but the dish I tried wasn’t really a soup, more just caramel pork in a claypot.

We took the meal at Mamma’s Gourmet Cooking School in Hoi An. It was truly phenomenal and probably the best Asian dish of the entire trip. The dish took a while to come, as all good meals tend to do, but when it arrived it was beautifully laid out, with pretty utensils, salad, rice and rice paper.

It was great, with complex flavours and sweet, tender pork. I can’t recommend the dish or the restaurant enough!

Cao Lau

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Cao Lau is a Hoi An specialty. Thick noodles, thinly sliced pork almost like char siu, and salad leaves in a dark broth. I tried it in a restaurant I seemed to always be attracted to and wasn’t at all disappointed! Hoi An is the only place you can try it, and it’s directly linked with folk tales about the wells in the city so it really is special!

We had a few other dishes off the bucket list too, but also we didn’t get to try everything we wanted to. Xoi ga, hu tieu and bun bo hué have firmly been pinned on the “for next time” list. 

What I really liked about Vietnamese food was that it was really fun to explore and try. Different cities and regions had different speciality dishes and finding them was a treasure hunt.

The flavour profiles are mostly familiar if you’ve been travelling in South East Asia for a while – expect ginger, lemongrass, honey, and unfortunately coriander alongside many others. The combinations are complex and versatile across dishes and regions. Influences come from its neighbours such as China, as well as its colonial history with France.

Exploring Vietnamese food was one of my favourite parts of being in Vietnam!

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Milan in two days? Well, alright then!

How has it happened that a week after returning from South East Asia, I’m heading back to Italy?


I vowed I was going to give that country a break! They were tired of me and I was tired of il bel paese. You heard right. I was tired of authentic pizza, perfectly cooked pizza, fried sugary pasticceria and dramatic hand gestures. That’s a lie, but I needed a break from Italy after visiting four times in two years. 

Yet here I am, one year later, heading back.

I can’t complain. My in-laws are paying for the flights and putting me up, and I can’t wait to go to Spontini and stock up on Mulino Bianco biscuits. I can’t wait to see people, say hi to Nonna Bedogni and a friend who lived with us in London for a bit.

Being back from travelling is a tough adjustment. My life has mostly been applying for jobs and blogging and it’s been grinding me down a little. I’m excited to have a change of scenery.


I’ll be spending one day in Milano and the rest in the suburbs – probably alone. What are your favourite things to do and places to eat in Milan?

Hanoi in 8 Pictures

1. Traffic around the Long Bien

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2. A city railway

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3. A man grooms himself on the street

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4. The colourful market

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5. Piles and piles of fruit and vegetables

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6. Flower sellers on cycles

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7. Citrus

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8. Hanoi evening traffic

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Sa Pa in 13 Pictures

1. Morning in Sa Pa Town

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2. Sa Pa rice paddies in low season

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3. Misty Sa Pa landscapes

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4. An adventurous child from the local tribes climbs a wall

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5. Trekking with a baby in tow

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6. Sa Pa’s rolling hills

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7. A house of cards

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8. A hemp weaving lesson

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9. Making gifts for the trekkers

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10. A seventy five year old woman, still trekking and climbing

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11. Local women guiding a tour

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12. A bored girl

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13. Best friends

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Hoi An Yellow

In each city I visited, I noticed overwhelming colour schemes and design styles. I was drawn to photograph them and note the differences in each city.

No city had as significantly striking a colour as Hoi An. Yellow  was in the detail and the minutae of the city. It covered the walls and the flowers bloomed in yellow.

With a lighthearted gaze, Hoi An Yellow captures the colour of the ancient city.

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Koh Rong in 7 Pictures

  1. A baby on the porch looks at her smiling dad

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2. A village grocer

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3. Cheeky children in a truck

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4. Beachside paradise

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5. A local family says hello

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6. Curious and playful children pose for a shot

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7. Sunset on the fishing harbour

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Inle Lake in 11 Pictures

  1. Reflections on the lake

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2. A silk weaver at work

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3. Floating gardens in the low growing season

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4. The Inle Lake fisherman shot

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5. Birds on a line

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6. Boats waiting for passengers

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7. A market worker bagging her stock

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8. A rower pulling up at the market

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9. Oxen and their load

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10. Weaving fabrics in the silk and lotus factory

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11. A beautiful girl makes cigars

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Hoi An in 10 Pictures

  1. By the waterside

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2. People buying colourful lanterns

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3. Hoi An Night Colour

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4. A woman sells hot lanterns to float on the river

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5. A burnt out building on the way to An Bang

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6. Waterside dining

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7. An old style petrol pump

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8. A break from the usual Hoi An colour

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9. Hoi An decay

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10. A motorcyclist transporting his chickens

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10. Hoi An dressed to the nines

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11. Religious offerings

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Luang Prabang in 9 Pictures

  1. A toddler watches over his parent’s food stall in the market

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2. Mid morning strolling

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3. Clear skies and temple architecture

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4. Tropical fruits ready to be juiced and blended

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5. Views from Mount Phou Si

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6. Cascades of Kuang Si Falls

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7. Sunset over the Mekong

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8. Grains and grains and grains

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9. Lazy river day

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